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Special Teams, Lehtonen lift Stars over Jets

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars got a big night from their special teams and a 35-save performance from Kari Lehtonen in defeating the Winnipeg Jets, 6-3, at American Airlines Center Thursday night.

The score was lopsided, but the game wasn’t. And the Stars had to battle through some adversity to get the two points.

“You have to deal with adversity,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “I think we questioned some of our mental toughness last year, and this year I think it's been good. I think part of it is you have to stay calm.”

Jamie Benn scored the game-winning goal with 5:55 left in the third period, putting home the rebound of a Tyler Seguin shot with the Stars on the power play. That goal came on the heels of the Stars’ penalty kill thwarting a four-minute Winnipeg power play, which came nine seconds after the Jets tied the game on a play where officials didn’t see Dallas defenseman Jason Demers get his stick slashed out of his hands.

“I liked the way we killed that penalty. We stepped up our penalty kill there and got the job done,” Benn said. “[On the power play], just a lot of good work by the other four guys. I pretty much stand in front and tap them in.”

Lehtonen battled through some adversity as well, giving up a soft goal early in the game but bouncing back with a stellar performance including nine saves with Dallas shorthanded.

“It was tough to see that one go in, but it was great to see him battle,” Ruff said. “I know it couldn't have been easy for him to stand there and have that one go in, and then have to battle back. But I loved the battle in his game. That's the one thing he's getting better at. He's got some battle. He could have come unglued too, but he didn't. He stood tall for us."

Ales Hemsky had one goal and two assists for the Stars. John Klingberg, Colton Sceviour and Vernon Fiddler had one goal and one assist each. Antoine Roussel also scored. The Stars were 2-4 on the power play and 4-4 on the penalty kill.

The win pushed the Stars to 13-4-0 on the season, the best 17-game start in franchise history. It also pushed them eight points ahead of Winnipeg (8-7-2), one of their Central Division rivals.

"It's pretty crazy how good the Central is,” said Jamie Benn. “We want to play against the best teams throughout the year, and we've got a bunch of them in our division. I think it's good for our team to learn to win these games. They're obviously four-point games.”

The Jets saw their winless streak hit four games (0-3-1). They are 0-2-0 so far on a road trip against four Central Division teams. They play at Nashville (Saturday) and at St. Louis (Monday).

“It turns on the power plays,” said Jets coach Paul Maurice. We have an opportunity to go ahead. We can’t make it and they score on that one, fairly tight game. So it’s better than our last effort, not good enough to win the game and we keep working.”

The two teams traded power play chances early in the game, and the Stars cashed in on their chance to take the early lead. A Klingberg shot from the point made it through traffic and past Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec at the 2:32 mark.

But the Jets bounced back to take a 2-1 lead, scoring twice in an 18-second span. Blake Wheeler scored off a shot from near the bottom of the left circle to tie the game at the 4:13 mark and Jacob Trouba scored on a rebound off the rush to give Winnipeg the lead at 4:31 of the first.

Stars defenseman Jason Demers came up with a big defensive play to keep it a 2-1 game, blocking an Andrew Ladd shot attempt at a wide-open net after Lehtonen was knocked down outside the crease.

The Stars tied the game 2-2 at the 12:38 mark when a Johnny Oduya shot hit the crossbar and Sceviour scored off the rebound for his first goal of the season. The Stars took a 3-2 lead early in the second period when Jordie Benn made a slick pass to spring Hemsky on a breakaway and Hemsky beat Pavelec with a wrist shot at the 3:17 mark.

“I just took off, and Benn made a good pass,” Hemsky said. “I know [Pavelec] from the Czech Republic so I knew I had to shoot five-hole and it went in. I am happy about that.”

Benn said of his pass: “I’d seen Klingberg do it too many times, and thought I’d go for it, and it worked out.”

Lehtonen came up big on a Jets power play later in the period, making six saves including a great kick save on a redirection by Jets forward Mark Scheifele at the 10:44 mark.

“Kari was unreal,” Jordie Benn said. “Kari is pretty good every night. He backs us up. He and [Antti] Niemi work really hard, and they deserve all the credit they get. They’re top notch goalies. You could say he won the game for us tonight.”

The Jets tied the game at the 9:17 mark of the third when Demers had the stick slashed out of his hands, and the result was Tyler Myers scoring on an open look from the slot. Nine seconds later, Seguin was given a double-minor for high-sticking but the Dallas penalty kill came up big and then Jamie Benn’s power play goal put Dallas ahead for good. Roussel and Fiddler scored empty-net goals to round out the scoring.

Stars center Radek Faksa left the ice-during warm-ups after getting hit in the chin with a puck. He got some repair work done and was ready for the game.

“The two amigos, [Antoine] Roussel and [Cody] Eakin, were goofing off, and one of them shot a puck and hit Faksa in the face,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “It's just a flesh wound. Just sewed him up, and ready to go. It should make you better, give you a little tougher look.”

Also, the Stars activated Patrick Eaves from injured reserve Thursday afternoon. Eaves, who didn’t play Thursday, has been out almost a month with a lower-body injury.

*The Jets outshot the Stars 38-34.

*John Klingberg, Jason Spezza and Colton Sceviour led the Stars with four shots each.

*The Stars have now scored 62 goals this season for an average of 3.65 per game.

*The Stars were 2-4 on the power play Thursday and are now 16-53 (30.2 percent) on the season.

*Tyler Seguin registered two assists and is tied for the league lead in points with 25 (9 goals, 16 assists).

*Jamie Benn scored his 11th goal of the season. He is tied for the league lead.

*John Klingberg now has 17 points (3 goals, 14 assists). He leads NHL defensemen in scoring.

*The Stars won 38 of 60 faceoffs (63 percent).

*Radek Faksa won 9 of 12 faceoffs (75 percent). Vernon Fiddler won 6 of 8 (75 percent). Jamie Benn and Cody Eakin both won 6 of 10 (60 percent). Jason Spezza won 5 of 8 (63 percent). Tyler Seguin won 6 of 12 (50 percent).

The Stars close out their homestand Saturday against the Minnesota Wild.

Jamie Benn- Tyler SeguinPatrick Sharp

Mattias JanmarkCody EakinJason Spezza

Colton SceviourVernon FiddlerAles Hemsky

Antoine RousselRadek FaksaValeri Nichushkin

Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaJason Demers

Jamie OleksiakJordie Benn

Kari Lehtonen

Antti Niemi

Travis Moen (upper body), Curtis McKenzie (hip)

Scratched: Jyrki Jokipakka, Patrick Eaves

Conditioning: Patrik Nemeth

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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